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The Proxemics (of lat. Proximus examined "neighbor") and describes the signals from individuals who by ingesting a certain distance replace each other. Proxemics is an area of psychology and communication science as well as a sub-area of locomotor skills .


Proxemik explores social and cultural meanings that people associate with their private and professional spatial environment. So it deals with spatial behavior as part of non-verbal communication . The term was originally coined by the anthropologist Edward T. Hall in the 1960s. At the beginning of the 21st century, business economist and educator Armin Poggendorf expanded the concept to include the dimension of eye level. Proxemics is more like unwritten territorial laws than that of a biological drive. The perception of these spatial-physical positions can vary depending on the culture .

The distances are expressed in small-scale behavior. In the simplest case, it is done through regular use or the setting of markings, for example deliberately placed objects, such as a newspaper or a towel, can be used to reserve a place in a reading room or on a beach.

Or people with higher social status are more likely to make physical contact than subordinates: The superior pats the subordinate on the shoulder, but not the other way around.


  • Distance : intimate, personal, social, public
  • Eye level : body size, standing height, seat height
  • Direction : eye contact and turning the body when interacting
  • Touch : mostly on the hands, arms, shoulders, back or head.

Division of the distances

The founder of proxemics, Edward Hall, divided the distance between people into four zones for northern and central European and North American cultures. Each zone has a wide and a close phase and at the same time denotes the interpersonal relationship:

  • Intimate distance
    • Close phase - up to 15 cm (up to 6 inches )
    • Wide phase  - 15 to 46 cm (6 to 18 inches)
  • Personal distance
    • Near phase  - 46 to 76 cm (1.5 to 2.5 feet )
    • Wide phase  - 76 to 122 cm (2.5 to 4 feet)
  • Social distance
    • Near phase  - 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m)
    • Wide Phase  - 2.1 to 3.7 m (7 to 12 feet)
  • Public distance
    • Near phase  - 3.7 to 7.6 m (12 to 25 feet)
    • Wide phase  - from 7.6 m (from 25 feet)

However, these distances are culture-dependent. This can be seen, for example, in the difference in the distances between North and South Americans:

“The normal distance in communication between strangers shows the importance of the dynamics of spatial interaction. When one person gets too close, the reaction follows promptly and automatically - the other person backs away. And when the other person comes up, we back down again. I have seen (US) Americans retreat the entire length of a corridor in front of foreigners who perceive them as too intrusive. "

- Edward T. Hall , 1959

In Europe, there is also a so-called north-south divide in terms of the distance that someone maintains from other people: Generally, northern Europeans keep a much greater distance from their counterparts than is the case with southern Europeans. This behavior often leads to the assumption that people from southern Europe are more warm and open than those from northern Europe. This different understanding of closeness and distance can also lead to a northern European feeling pressured by a southern European more quickly, while maintaining a greater distance by a northern European is perceived more negatively by a southern European.

If a stranger is in someone else's personal distance zone, this can be perceived as uncomfortable. However, there are exceptions in certain situations such as a crowded train station or a narrow elevator. There, intrusion into the personal zone is generally accepted.


Globalization means that companies are operating in an increasingly international environment. Intercultural training courses are offered in order to better understand and understand the behavior of people from different cultures. These trainings also deal with non-verbal communication. The spatial behavior plays an important role here. 

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Proxemics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Everett M. Rogers; Willam B. Hart; Yoshitaka Miike: Edward T. Hall and The History of Intercultural Communication: The United States and Japan Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Institute for Media and Communication Research, Keio University, Japan (Ed.): Keio Communication Review . No. 24, 2002, p. 10. Retrieved February 3, 2014. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Armin Poggendorf: Proxemics in team dynamics - dictate and interpret spatial language. In: Florian Siems, Manfred Brandstätter, Herbert Gölzner (Hrsg.): Target group-oriented communication. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2008, p. 234ff.
  3. See Heilmann, Christa M .: Understanding and using body language correctly. 2nd, revised edition. Munich 2011. p. 65.
  4. Cf. Hall, Edward T .: The language of space. Düsseldorf 1976. p. 118 f.
  5. ^ Hall, Edward T. (Edward Twitchell), 1914-2009 .: The hidden dimension . Anchor Books, New York 1990, ISBN 978-0-385-08476-5 , pp. 113-125 .
  6. See Heilmann, Christa M .: Understanding and using body language correctly. 2nd, revised edition. Munich 2011. p. 67.